The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched an HSE Inspection Campaign focusing on the lung health of construction workers in Great Britain
The campaign aims to tackle the unacceptable levels of preventable, life-threatening diseases caused by dust exposure at work.
According to HSE, the construction industry sees thousands of preventable cases of irreversible lung disease resulting from dust exposure at work every year. Such diseases often drastically alter individuals’ lives and can lead to premature death.
“Every year we see construction workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work. This is unacceptable in the 21st century when occupational lung disease is preventable,” said Michael Thomas, HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction.
He emphasised the importance of taking necessary precautions to protect long-term lung health and urged employers and workers to prevent such devastating impacts actively.
The inspections, part of the ‘HSE Inspection Campaign’, which commenced on May 15, 2023, and will continue through to July, are part of a respiratory health intervention initiative. The initiative’s primary focus is on dust control, emphasising ensuring employers and workers are aware of the risks, plan their work appropriately, and employ the proper controls.
Inspectors will specifically check the control measures to prevent workers from inhaling harmful construction dust, including Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) and wood dust. They will also ensure that any asbestos-containing materials have been identified, removed, or managed appropriately to limit exposure.
While the initiative’s primary goal is to protect workers’ health, inspectors will take necessary action to deal with safety risks or other areas of concern if they are identified.
“Our inspectors will visit a range of construction sites to check businesses are taking the necessary action to ensure their workers’ long-term respiratory health is being protected,” Thomas continued.
He stressed that effective measures, such as water suppression, extraction, and as a last resort, Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), should be implemented in line with the hierarchy of control options.
The initiative is backed by the HSE’s Dust Kills campaign, which offers free advice to businesses and workers on dust control measures. HSE has also partnered with various construction and occupational health organisations, including the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Construction Leadership Council (CLC), Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG), and Construction Dust Partnership.